Tag Archives: Christ child

The Song of Christmas Is a Song of Hope

Hope. One of the most beautiful of words, hope is very near the heart of this season.

For me, the Christmas-singing season usually starts in earnest about the second week in December. I start listening to Christmas music sooner than that, and I’ll usually sing one or two Christmas programs earlier, but the sleigh really gets moving in that second week. And whenever I sing those songs, at the center of the music is hope.

I hope I won’t mess up by forgetting the words or, worse, playing fast and loose with the pitch. I hope nobody’s ears will begin bleeding before I’m done. I hope nobody will throw anything.

But the hope I have in mind is much deeper than that.

From the time I set up the equipment, climb onto the stool, and start filling the mike, it is hope itself that I really want to start flowing from the speakers. I know that sad songs have their place in this world. I’ve not forgotten that the writers of the Psalms at times wrote songs of lament.

Even as we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” we know Christ comes as our ransom; a heavy price will be paid. But we still sing his coming, and our tears are mixed with joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy.

You see, sad songs and hopeless songs are not the same. The “psalms of lament” always end on a note of hope: “We cry now, and for very good reasons. Hear us, O Lord! But we know where to bring our tears, and we know who will wipe them away. We know that joy comes in the morning, and we know from whence it comes!” In that is real hope, and genuine hope is always stronger and longer-lasting than meaninglessness and despair.

If you want to find a “singer” to continually wail about the ugliness of life or wallow as a victim and scream about life’s unfairness, spreading bile and accusation and even filth, you’ll need to find someone with no hope. Sadly, they’ll not be hard to find.

Hope is my reason to sing, and nothing is more hopeful, more joyful, more full of love, than the Child who entered our world in that tiny form at Bethlehem. If His light is within us, then every twinkle on every tree, or glimmer of every icicle, or sparkle of every child’s wide eyes bears witness to Bethlehem’s eternal joy.

Sometimes during a Christmas performance, I’ll introduce and sing some special songs, some (I hope) beautiful music perhaps new to my listeners’ ears to help them see yet other glimmers of His hope and joy, and that’s fun.

Sometimes I’ll talk to an audience about a song they’ve long known and tell them its story that they probably didn’t, and then I’ll sing it anew.

But often I think my favorite part is simply to sing in the background of the conversation and food and laughter the songs folks know and love, the songs that wrap softly around each of us, warm us up, and quietly say to our souls, “It’s back, that lovely Christmas hope, and if I’m not home quite yet, this music tells my soul, I’m closer, and I’m loved.”

And so I sing. You’d be surprised how easy it is to watch and revel in the hugs and smiles, laughter and warmth, hope and joy, to be thanking God for the blessing of filling these ears, and still be singing. The trick during those times is to let the music waft through unobtrusively, to sing mostly what they know and delight to welcome back, the old song-friends that hold hands with this Christmas and sweet Christmases before. They have a common Ancestor, these Christmases, singing His song of hope in His every son, every daughter.

 

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And Merry Christmas!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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What Does Christmas Really Mean?

 

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“Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings,” writes Henri Nouwen. “Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine.”

Christmas is choosing for a change to take a look through the right end of the telescope and thrilling to the sight of God’s work written large rather than cringing before a universe shrunken, shriveled, and constricted, bounded on all sides by the nearsighted view of mortals almost as blind and dull as me.

Christmas means that the real question is not, “What must I do to be saved?” Not such a bad question for a jailer back in Philippi scared stiff about losing his head because of almost losing his prisoners (Acts 16). But the far better question for me is, “What has God already done to save me?” Christmas means finding that answer all wrapped up in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Christmas means bringing the most precious of gifts to the Baby King not to enrich or impress him or add to the net worth of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who gives me the gift of my every breath, but simply because I love him and want to joyfully place before him the best that I have.

Christmas means finding a fleeting moment of sanity when I’m less full of myself and more filled with Heaven as I focus not on me but on the God of all life and joy.

Christmas means that instead of trying to save humanity theoretically through my unceasingly serious efforts, I sit down with one or two giggling and very specific pint-size children or grandchildren and tell a story about how once upon a specific time in Bethlehem a star twinkled and angels sang, and then I hum them to sleep with “Silent Night.”

If I’ve got Christmas right and know the real story, then Christmas also means I’m free to laugh with the little ones and tell them old new stories about how Scrooges get over taking themselves too seriously and what happens on “The Night Before Christmas.”

Christmas, for me, is realizing that the wonderful writer G. K. Chesterton discovered something as important as the law of gravity when he wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” It was through pride, he wrote, that Satan fell, and “the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.” Christmas means that sugar plums always win over sneers, that the deadly self-serious always crash and burn, and that angels aren’t the only ones lifted into flight by Joy.

Christmas means that though you may get a tiresome tax form in January, all you have to do is look up on a Yuletide night to see that Bethlehem always beats Caesar and that the twinkling tinsel of Heaven’s stars all point forever to the One brightest, the One eternal.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


The Father’s First Birth Announcement Goes to . . .

 

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This Christmas I find myself wondering, yet again, about those Bethlehem shepherds.

It’s possible, of course, that the Almighty chose these particular sheepherders as recipients of the angelic birth announcement of his Son because they were a sheep-shearing cut above the other sheep guys in the region.

Maybe they were better-dressed than most, draped in new camo robes ordered from Zimfela’s Catalog complete with Velcro-secured mesh pockets for their ZX-7 night vision sheep-finding goggles.

Perhaps they were unusually prosperous shepherds, the sort who could afford a clean-robe-a-day laundry service; hence, if you were downwind and one was headed your way, your first clue would be visual or auditory, never olfactory.

Maybe, before entering any respectable domicile following their shepherd shift, they were careful to switch from their field sandals to high-dollar Habakkukstock footware lest they track in . . . something.

It’s even possible, I suppose, that the Lord God chose these particular fellows because they were unusually educated and articulate. Perhaps a couple or three of them were actually Aramaic majors who’d had a hard time finding lucrative employment after college but at class reunions, even though they were less well-sandaled than their Business major classmates, could take solace in the fact that they understood more about the meaning of life.

Or maybe the Creator chose them because they were, against all stereotypes, remarkably religious sheepherders. Sure, their work made it hard for them to attend worship services in town, but they never failed to hold regular devotionals during each of their shepherd shifts. Granted, it had been a bit more complicated since zealous young Zebulun, on vacation a couple of months ago, had wandered into a trendy mega-synagogue in Jerusalem. Now they were holding two devotionals an evening, one traditional and the other contemporary.

I suppose all of that is possible. But if you’re selling it (which is unlikely), I’m probably not buying.

What I really think is that our Father who brazenly, scandalously, seems to prefer ordinary folks over the boring and tedious, plastic and air-brushed, hang-your-own-halo, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, super-spiritual crowd (always religiously first at the scene of any crucifixions)—chose these guys to be first at the scene of his Son’s birth precisely because they were . . . wait for it . . . ordinary.

I have no beef with these shepherds. Far from criticizing our Father’s choice, I find it laugh-out-loud delightful.

The heavens were torn open. The angel announced. The heavenly host sang. To an audience of guys who smelled conspicuously like the south ends of north-facing sheep, to gents whose manners and language were far from genteel, who were quite capable of describing recalcitrant sheep in colorful terms, and who’d heretofore been most likely to find angels only at the bottom of a wineskin.

For that Bethlehem birth announcement, God chose shepherds! Ordinary folks. Like us. Can you imagine anything more extraordinary?!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And . . . Merry Christmas! 

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


When Christ Was Born, the Situation Was Normal

 

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In some ways, the world just a few moments before the birth of Jesus in that Bethlehem stable was almost exactly the same as the world just a few moments after his birth.

The state of the stable, and the inn out in front of it, and Bethlehem, and Judea, and Rome, and the whole wide world, was pretty much the same. As they say in the military (well, sort of as they say), it was one big SNAFU. The Situation was absolutely Normal. It was All Fouled Up.

The government was pretty much like governments have always been—happiest when people are standing in long lines getting crunched by bureaucracy and about to be burdened by one more tax to keep the crunching wheels crunching.

Joseph’s probably been working his fingers to the bone trying to make a living, and now he gets to take days and weeks and maybe even months off—all of which is death to productivity and income—so the bureaucrats can fill out one more form with his and Mary’s name on it. Now he’ll have more taxes to pay and less money to pay them with. Nobody’s more effective than the government at keeping really small businesses—say, a carpenter shop—really small.

Actually, all of this stuff with Mary had pretty well sapped him lately of much ability to concentrate and work very effectively anyway. First, he was so shocked and perplexed that he didn’t know how to feel. Then he was worried sick. And then he got the visit from the angel. Yes, that was a wonderful thing, a marvelous comfort, an amazing experience. But if you think seeing an angel, even one with good news, isn’t incredibly unsettling, it’s obviously been a day or two since you’ve seen one.

Then the tired carpenter gets to make the trip to Bethlehem with his very pregnant wife who is simply exhausted—not to mention enormous and well along toward D-day, by the time they get there. No cheap tickets left on Mideast Airlines. No tickets at all. So they get to go by donkey (which hospitals’ O.B. departments ought to keep tied out by their parking lots; they’re cheaper than I.V.s and Pitocin and are pretty much guaranteed to get things going).

Mary’s just about had it (literally), but they get to the Bethlehem Inn, and the place is overbooked. They end up stuck out in the stable, stomping around in the straw (which Joseph knows will have his allergies in full bloom before you can say Gesundheit!).

And then Mary’s birth pains are becoming very regular. Even first century folks don’t need the New England Journal of Medicine to tell them what that means. This baby is coming! And he’s coming right here, right now, “ready or not, Joseph!” in barn straw that was the real thing, not sanitized stuff for a manger scene.

The situation in the world and in that Bethlehem stable that night was normal—the same as usual in many ways—fouled up with lots going wrong.

But with the Baby’s first cry, the world would never be the same. And God was making sure that one day, all that is wrong with this world could be made right.

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne! If you’d like to purchase some music, or just listen to some–hey, there’s lots of Christmas music there–you’d be welcome! And a Christmas special is . . . any combination of three CDs for $35 plus shipping. Email me at ckshel@aol.com or use the contact form on the site if you’d like that “special” discount! Merry Christmas! 

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


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